Safety concerns surface following CTA attack, Loop sexual assault

Fridays incident was the first university public safety alert related to Lincoln Park since May 6.
Friday’s incident was the first university public safety alert related to Lincoln Park since May 6.
DePaulia Staff

After a DePaul student was beaten in an attempted robbery on the Blue Line and another was drugged, robbed and sexually assaulted in the Loop last week, the safety of students has become an increasing concern.

Bob Wachowski, the director of Public Safety, advises students to have a plan just in case.

“Think about what you could or would do in various situations. Also, stay alert,” Wachowski said in an email.  “When in the library or study areas, while walking or commuting, keep an eye on your electronic devices, backpacks, purses and other personal belongings. If someone approaches you and demands your property, giving it up increases your chances of staying safe.”

At DePaul, there have been 11 sexual crimes, nine cases of battery, one robbery and one attempted robbery reported to Public Safety so far during the 2015-16 academic year, according to The DePaulia’s Crime Watch which compiles data from Public Safety alerts.

In both recent cases, the attackers were not DePaul students. About four out of five sexual assaults are committed by an aggressor who the victim knows, according to Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN). Yet, the number of sexual assaults may be even higher: 68 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, RAINN found.

DePaul students had a variety of opinions about how safe they feel in a city in which crime is a regular part of day-to-day life.

“As a woman, I am always concerned about safety, regardless of the time of day,” Ashley Hart, a junior and women’s and gender studies major, said. “Definitely with these instances it makes it feel more real.”

Brian DeCant, a graduate nursing student, said he can see how crime can be frightening for students.

“I take the Blue Line a lot, coming from home. At times I definitely feel concerned about my safety, especially when riding public transportation,” DeCant said.

When the other student was beaten on the ‘L’ by a couple, at least two other people watched and did nothing. And when the train arrived at the next stop, the couple and the witnesses left the train. Only later did the conductor find out what happened and call the police.

“There’s always the bystander effect – someone calls for help and everyone just stands around. It happens a lot, unfortunately,” DeCant said.

DeCant said that if he was there, he would have tried to intervene.

“I would try to step in and do whatever I could,” he said. “I’m not the biggest of people, but I would definitely at least try and get someone’s attention, try and get who was assaulting the person to get off of them.”

Hart said she would have also tried to help the student.

“I would definitely take that chance,” she said. “But I wasn’t there, so I can’t say for sure.”

Having the courage to intervene may be tough for some, Hart said.

“You have to be trained to recognize the signs of violence going on,” she said, “and you need to intervene.”

If you have information about the crimes above, or see a crime occur, call the police or DePaul Public Safety at 312-362-8400.

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